At his hearing, 46-year-old James Castle told the court he's innocent. He filed his appeal before the mandatory sentence was even read.
"Anyone who knows me knows I'm uncapable of doing this crime," he said. "I hope God judges you more fairly than you have judged me."
Castle was convicted in May of killing 13-year-old Amber Dietz. Her brother found her stabbed in her bed July 20, 2004. Castle was once married to Amber's aunt. He'd reportedly remained close to the family.
His sisters were in the courtroom, as were about 20 people wearing t-shirts in memory of Amber. Her parents, brother and sisters, as well as many other family members and friends chose not to speak before the court.
Her grandmother, Pat Reynolds, said the verdict brings closure, but not relief. She says Castle's statement doesn't sway them. They will be in court for his appeals to be sure he is not released from prison.